County Board to Vote on Bond Referenda

by Katie Pyzyk July 19, 2012 at 11:05 am 5,476 67 Comments

At its meeting on Saturday, July 21, the County Board will vote on approving the bond referenda that voters will see on the November 6 ballot.

The referenda would approve funding for a variety of projects in the county’s $2.4 billion FY 2013-2022 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). During the CIP process, the county asked for public input, including at a public hearing last month. The adopted CIP will be published later this summer.

County staff recommends the Board approves four referenda to go to a public vote. Each asks voters if they believe the county should take on a debt and issue bonds for the specified amount in each category, in order to fund county projects. The breakdown of the three county government referenda and one school referendum is as follows:

  • Metro and Transportation — $31,946,000
  • Local Parks and Recreation — $50,553,000
  • Community Infrastructure — $28,306,000
  • Arlington Public Schools — $42,620,000

The Metro and Transportation referendum includes funding various road, pedestrian and transit projects across the county. Portions will also fund the WALKArlington, BikeArlington and Neighborhood Traffic Calming programs. The largest amount, however, would go toward WMATA projects, in the amount of $14.6 million.

The Local Parks and Recreation referendum will fund improvements at county parks and land acquisition. The largest portion of funding — $42.5 million — would go toward the design and construction of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center. The proposal also includes maintenance on playgrounds, courts and other park infrastructure.

Street improvements including curbs, gutters, sidewalks and paving are covered under the Community Infrastructure referenda. There will be money allocated for traffic management, street lighting, landscaping and pedestrian safety enhancements. This proposal will also provide funding for the county’s information technology and public safety needs through the installation of a public safety network. The Community Infrastructure bond includes funding for Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation program.

Funding for the Arlington Public Schools referenda covers the school system’s Capital Improvement Plan, which includes maintenance and building additional classroom space. A significant portion would make funds available for the APS plan to build new elementary schools.

If the bond referenda are approved by the voters, the county is legally prohibited from reallocating funding from one category to another. The County Board may make changes, however, to specific projects within each category, due to factors such as changes in construction pricing. The Board also has the option of issuing a lesser amount of bonds than approved by voters.

  • JnA

    Put the Pike streetcar issue on the the ballot.

    • South Awwlington


      • Mary-Austin

        So people actually have a meaningful say in the process.

  • John Fontain

    County Staff: Has anyone undertaken an effort to write these referenda in plain English to ensure that all voters – regardless of their level of financial sophistication – will easily understand the choice presented to them?

    • Elmer

      In plain English: Ain’t gonna happen.

    • brif

      we’ve been through this, they already are in plain english.

      • John Fontain

        Nope. “Shall we contract a debt” is not the normal way most people speak when talking about borrowing money.

        • brif

          yep, normal people know all too well what debt is.

          • John Fontain

            you insisting that it is normal for people to use the phrase “contract a debt” is laughable and doesn’t make it so. but keep repeating yourself if it makes you feel better.

            i can’t understand why anyone would be against making the ballot choices as clear as possible. maybe you can share your reasons?

          • brif

            Sorry, the only thing laughable about this is your insistence that “normal people” can’t understand the ballot initiative as written.

          • John Fontain

            I didn’t think there was much of a chance that you would actually answer the question why you don’t want the ballot choices as clear as possible. your lack of an answer is unsurprising.

          • brif

            i guess you missed the part where i said the ballot is already in plain english.

          • drax

            “you insisting that it is normal for people to use the phrase “contract a debt” is laughable and doesn’t make it so. but keep repeating yourself if it makes you feel better.

            i can’t understand why anyone would be against making the ballot choices as clear as possible. maybe you can share your reasons?”


            me laugh! you say “contract a debt” easy think. say again, say again, but not!

            me not get joke. y u no make easy think? u tell?

          • Glebe Roader

            I believe it is already in plain English.

          • Ricardo

            “Shall we borrow $x million, to be repaid by property taxes, in order to fund XYZ” would be even plainer English.

        • drax

          So when people vote for or against it, what do you think they think it means, John?

    • drax

      What do you think voters who don’t have a high level of financial sophistication think they are voting for, rather than what it really says in plain English, John?

      • Pointer Outer

        What do you think John thinks voters who don’t have a high level of financial sophistication think they are voting for, rather than what it really says in plain English, drax?

  • Elmer

    So the board is ignoring the request of the county civic federation to seperate out the 42.5 million dollars in requested debt funding for the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center for the voters determination on its own merits in this referendum ?

    • Bob

      Well it’s over 80% of the total for that one bond. Just defeat the whole thing. No money for the board until they adjust the way they form these ballot issues.

      • Speaking of vibrant

        Knowing that a bond issue hasn’t failed in 30 years, I can see the point of more descriptive ballot language. Especially since people don’t read the newspaper anymore.

        How about:

        “Should the county take on $50 million worth of debt for Parks and Recreation, 80 percent of which will be put toward the construction of a state-of-the-art-swimming pool next to the Pentagon?”

        If you think the language is biased, ask yourself if you’re mistaking detail for bias.

        • Westover

          How about any single cost item over a certain high threshold, say $20 million, be required to be a stand alone question?

  • Wayne Kubicki

    Civic Federation called for a separate referendum issue on the Long Bridge pools building. Link here:


    • Lucifer

      Yes, at a most late hour, after most delegates had left from sheer frustration. The vote was attended by the old fuddy duddies who vote no to anything which has any connection with progress and community need.

      • Elmer

        Well, you got the Lucifer part right.

  • Mick Way

    So kids in two years when construction starts on something you think is wildly extravagant like a new dog park in clarendon remember that last bit:

    “… the county is legally prohibited from reallocating funding from one category to another.”

  • Joe

    Under the “Parks and Recreation” bond, could the County Board force through a reallocation of the James Hunter dog park money toward construction of a bathroom at Lyon Village Park and Sprayground? That would be terribly shortsighted, as I witnessed two separate groups of people turn around and leave when they realized that their kids couldn’t use the bathroom there (they were in full clothing). I couldn’t understand them as they spoke Spanish, but based on their demeanor and the kids being upset it seems they were going to use the sprayground but had nowhere to change.

    Put through a bathroom, and these people would have wound up using what is a neighborhood rather than a County resource.

    • Handy Manny

      Not sure I understand what you’re getting at here . . .

      • D’oh

        He said he wants to keep his neighborhood playground white and demonstrated his misunderstanding of what a county park is.

    • Incontinent Mike

      So building a public restroom would be bad because:

      A. it encourages fully clothed Spanish speakers to frequent what you falsely believe to be your very own personal community park.

      B. the County Board shouldn’t get to reallocate funds once a bond is approved (bait n switch)

      C. the sprayground already has sufficient drains to accommodate everyone’s urination needs.

      C’mon dude, we all gotta pee.

      • Joe

        The issue isn’t these particular families, per se. It’s who shows up with them. Just this week we heard about a pair of pit bulls who attacked a man as he got out of his car in his own driveway. This happened in front of his two kids–it was all over the news.

        Now, I know that you can’t blame the breed. I know AWLA doesn’t enforce the leash law. I know the police didn’t necessarily need to shoot the dog it shot (the other gave up).

        But that’s not the point. The point is that there is a sprayground for these children down there at Drew Model School–one with a bathroom available. So they don’t need to come up here. But if you build the bathroom at Lyon Village Park, then you remove one of the barriers to those people coming to our sprayground.

        Coupled with the cousin or friend they might have living above the church, the bathroom might be enough to bring them up here…

        And their PIT BULLS!!!

        • drax

          Joe is clearly fake.

        • mark

          The pitbulls are just your red herring. There is NO county park or other facility that is just for those neighborhoods. All in the county are welcome to use all county facilities. Sorry if that means you may have to share with “those” people.

        • D’oh

          Your comments have reached the point that I’m not sure you are being satirical or are just incredibly, incredibly stupid, because it’s so rare to see someone so openly racist around here.

        • jackson

          This is a fake troll comment.

          • Aaron

            Sure smells like one.

          • WeiQiang (with the bulletproof thick skull)

            Wow … good call. It took me a second to get there.

          • observer

            a lot of people in Lyon Village actually feel that way, though, which is the sad part.

          • Pointer Outer

            Drax will soon ask you for your study proving this because you didn’t say “I’ll bet.”

          • observer

            That one who types comment after comment? I stopped reading them a long time ago.

      • Fred Willard

        and don’t forget that it would turn your neighborhood park into a gay cruising spot.

  • UA

    Still no mention of the operating costs for the aquatics center

  • RedShirt
    • Tabby_TwoTone


  • Patrick

    The Fulfilling our ongoing commitment to Metro – $14.6 million

    • Patrick

      This should be part of the normal budget and not funded via bonds.

      • thelevyisdry


        • Aaron

          If you think Metro service is terrible now, wait until they have a direct pipeline to our money whenever they want it.

          If you want to hold them accountable, retain control of their funding.

          • drax

            Good thing this doesn’t give Metro a direct pipeline to our money whenever they want it.

          • Aaron

            No, “this” bond vote doesn’t. I don’t have a problem with this bond proposal. I think we should continue to approve the funding for “our ongoing commitment to Metro” by popular vote on a recurring basis.

            The direct pipeline would be the long-sought aphrodisiac of DC public policy mavens that is “dedicated funding” by Virginia and Maryland.

          • faintly progressive

            of course dedicated funding would be limited, not as much as they want whenever they want.

          • faintly progressive

            so, without consitent funding, they have a poor service record. Other systems that DO have consistent funding, have better service. Ergo to improve service, we should deny them consistent funding.

            makes a lot of sense. not.

    • ArlRes

      It is part of the operating budget for metro operations. $14.6 million is for the capital needs of the system.

  • JamesE

    $100 million for a new pitbull fighting arena in Clarendon please. Think of the poor dog owners.

    • WeiQiang (with the bulletproof thick skull)

      It’s human park with a CCA … Canine Competition Area … and a nicer water feature for dogs than any of the spraygrounds.

  • egbdf

    ArlNow: Thank you for “Referenda” not ‘referendums.’

    • face

      Treble clef?

      • John

        Why clef?

  • Rick

    42 million for schools? Why not! Let’s keep borrowing to build schools that are smaller than their predecessor (see: Washington-Lee High School).

    But, people will vote for it because they don’t want to feel bad for not voting for the schools.

    • PLinARL

      Actually, that is about the amount it will take to fully build the new Williamsburg Elementary school adjacent to Williamsburg Middle. That would be an entirely new neighborhood school, and one that is really needed.

  • Mary-Austin

    I wonder if the terrible status of the roads in the county are part of their “car free diet” plan

  • confused

    I haven’t noticed the roads in Arlington are worse than those in Fairfax.

    Thats not what car free diet means, no. Cyclists use roads too, you know.

  • JnA

    Ballot Question: Shall Arlington County expend up to $200 million to construct a streetcar system on Columbia Pike?

  • ArlRes

    Ballot questions are only for debts that will general obligation, putting the full faith and credit of the municipality behind the bonds. The streetcar will not be using general obligation debt.

  • Anon

    What will not be part of the bond referenda is whether the county should spend $42.5M on an office building they don’t even need (2020 N 14th Street). Instead, they’re using “subject-to-appropriations” bonds which don’t get voted on by the public.

  • Mc

    Infrastructure yes. Schools yes. Overpriced swimming pool no. Metro funds that go to unionized mechanics who can make more than me through overtime scams, no.

  • really?

    Perhaps everyone should vote no to Metro, in which case Metro trains will stop servicing Arlington stations, and buses will stop at the borders. That won’t impact traffic on 50, 66 and 395 at all. Bike to work day can be every day too 🙂


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